David Davis has suggested Britain’s EU divorce deal will “favour” remaining member states as he signalled ministers are ready to accept demands to enshrine the Brexit agreement in law.
Revealing the sixth round of formal negotiations will begin next week, the Brexit Secretary said the Government viewed Britain’s withdrawal agreement and a deal on the future UK-EU relationship as “inseparable”.
But, speaking to the House of Lords EU Committee, Mr Davis hinted Britain might have to pay a price in the divorce agreement as he looks to strike a long-term trade deal.
“In the infamous words or the famous words of the EU, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” he told peers.
“And we see these as being linked to each other.
“The withdrawal agreement, on balance, will probably favour the EU in terms of things like money and so on.
“Whereas the future relationship will favour both sides and will be important to both of us.”
Mr Davis rowed back on his previous claim a Brexit deal might not be agreed until the very last moment of the Article 50 period at the end of March 2019.
He said he was hopeful a “political agreement” will be reached on the future relationship in October or November next year.
This would allow time for both MPs and European capitals to ratify the agreement, the Cabinet minister added, as he hinted at a Government acceptance of demands by pro-Remain Tories for the Brexit deal to be authorised by an Act of Parliament.
Senior Conservatives have tabled some of the near 400 amendments to the Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill, including one which would ensure MPs and peers the right to approve the terms of Britain’s withdrawal.
Commenting on the legislation’s ongoing passage through Parliament, Mr Davis said: “We are going to listen carefully to the debate and take on board what people say.”
He insisted the EU Withdrawal Bill is “much more complex” than the previous Article 50 Bill, which the Government successfully passed unamended, adding: “It’s not designed to be untouchable.”
Mr Davis also used the committee appearance to express confidence Britain would get a “basic deal” on Brexit whatever happens during negotiations, suggesting agreement would be struck on issues such as security cooperation at the very least.
He revealed remaining differences on the issue of citizens’ rights were likely to be at the forefront of next week’s talks.
Mr Davis described how the EU were yet to be convinced by Britain’s efforts to provide assurance over the post-Brexit rights of EU citizens living in the UK, without the involvement of the European Court of Justice.
He said: “The issue from the EU is how trustworthy is this?
“Might some future Parliament under, I don’t know, Prime Minister Nigel Farage – perhaps I shouldn’t be rude – but under some other government alter these rights.
“We don’t believe any government in this country would be likely to do that.”
In an attempt to break a deadlock in divorce talks, Mr Davis has now proposed writing the final Brexit agreement on EU citizens rights into British law.